UR EATS: How to Spice Up Meatless Monday
By Deborah Myers, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist
Thinking of going “meatless” for your Mondays? Although veganism and vegetarianism is often associated with trend, a meatless lifestyle is anything but a fashion craze. Certain cultures have been advocating meatless living for centuries, and while you might be tempted to opt for such a régime because Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman adamantly endorse it, legendary doers of history have long embraced the same ideals. Ghandi, Plato, Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, William Shakespeare, and Socrates were all advocates of vegetarian living. Whether it’s for you and your body or not, the proven benefits of going meatless are remarkable. Here are a few notable advantages of an overall vegetarian diet:
- Less saturated fat within the diet
- Lower blood cholesterol
- Less likely to develop heart disease and clogged arteries
- Less likely to suffer heart attack or stroke
- Contain higher amounts of antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals within the diet (to protect the body from cell and tissue damage)
- Lower rates of cancer, especially prostate and colorectal cancer
With some planning to collect a plate of complete and nutritional proteins, Meatless Monday just might be something you’d like to give a whirl for the longevity of your health. Now that we know some of the facts, how do we make sure we’re doing “meatless” right, and furthermore, making it delicious?!
What is a complete protein?
While plants such as grains, legumes, leafy greens, starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds all contain indispensable proteins, individually they lack a sufficient amount of one or more of the amino acids necessary for building body proteins. Obtaining foods to adequately build body proteins is crucial for the growth of hair, nails, muscle and tissue repair, and overall cell function! So, we want to be sure we’re consuming a proper range of proteins. Thankfully, there’s no need to lose heart- this problem is easily solved by doing a little “pairing”. By simply combining certain plant sources, we can design a dish of complete, delicious, meatless protein!
Rule of Thumb.
We’re not nutritional rocket scientists here, so what’s the deal? How can we successfully build a dish of meatless protein without succumbing to tedious research? Simply remember these few rules of thumb:
- Grains + legumes
- Grains +nuts or seeds
- Legumes +nuts or seeds
These combinations provide a dish of complete, high-quality protein! Here are just a few foods from these groups you can easily grab from your local grocer and pair galore!
Grains: Brown rice, oats, millet, corn, barley, bulgur, wheat, quinoa
Legumes: Green peas, lentils, chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, all beans (kidney, black, lima, aduki, navy beans, soy beans and soy products)
Dark Green Vegetables (spinach, collard greens, broccoli, kale, asparagus)
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, filberts, pistachios, pecans, macadamia, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds, and seed and nut butters
That’s nice, but it all sounds so… tasteless? Here are a few ways to add some zest to any meatless dish!
Spice it up!!!
If you LOVE to heat things up in the kitchen, now’s your chance to go bananas! Beans, rice, quinoa, lentils and green veggies are all perfect opportunities to add some spice and zing! With their naturally soft and mild flavors, these foods take wonderfully to embellishments, and won’t clash with your favorite seasonings! Make it hot, savory, or sweet. It’s your canvas, feel free to create!
Mix and Match
Mixing and matching foods is just one more way to keep nutrition interesting! MORE options= Bingo! Since the name of the game in completing plant proteins is mix and match, have some fun! The world of nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans is vast and wonderful; take advantage in your vegetarian food pairings by experimenting frequently!
Don’t forget to freggie!
Fruit and veggie, that is! While a myriad of dark green vegetables can add an advantageous protein pop, don’t forget there are things like peppers, onions, carrots, sprouts, and even FRUITS that can scrumptiously compliment your grain and/or legume dish. Citrus, apples, berries and more can all put a little POW in any old plant combination, so don’t be afraid to add something unexpected!
In the end, balance your diet throughout the day and the week, and you won’t need to fear the lack of anything! Variety is the essential key, so whether we’re talking variation in your everyday vegetarian diet, or switching things up and going meatless 1-2 days a week, mixing up the ordinary is how our body is geared to thrive! Keep it natural, nutritious, and diverse, and there will be NO deprivation of flavor or vitality!
Nutrition: 4th Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberly McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein